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Streaming unwrapped: 2022 was the year of original content

3 minute read | January 2023

Americans streamed more than 19 million years’ worth of content last year

Streaming services continue to gain momentum as audiences’ favored destination for content, but the past year of viewing behavior illustrates how dramatically content offerings have evolved since Netflix introduced audiences to original programming back in 2013.

Before the debut of House of Cards, the political drama series on Netflix, which was the first TV series to appear exclusively on a streaming service, virtually all other streaming content had been licensed from other sources. Perhaps viewed as an experiment or a risk by some at the time, original content has grown to become a competitive advantage for streaming services, as many original titles attracted viewers to the platforms, and in some cases, they outperformed acquired content.

In total, Americans streamed more than 19.4 million years of content last year, up 27% from about 15 million years in 2021. The increase was driven by the breadth of new and expanded services, coupled by the depth of content—particularly streaming originals. In the years following the arrival of House of Cards, annual viewership reviews would highlight the incredible support that deep libraries of acquired content would provide. That changed in 2022, as viewing minutes for top-performing original content dramatically outpaced top-performing acquired content, with Netflix’s Stranger Things taking the top slot among all series.

In total, audiences watched 52 billion minutes of Stranger Things in 2022, the highest total since COVID-driven lockdowns drove audiences to watch 57.1. billion minutes of the Office back in 2020. The dominance of original content is underscored even more by the fact that there are only 34 episodes of Stranger Things, while there are 192 episodes of the Office

On the other hand, sometimes one is all it takes, as audiences watched 27.4 million minutes of Encanto, a full-length animated feature that premiered on Disney+ in late December 2021. That equates to it being watched 269 million times. While Encanto had 12 full months to accumulate so much viewing and land on the top streaming list, Netflix’s Wednesday, which debuted in late November 2022, made the cut with just 36 days of availability on Netflix. 

While original content came of age with audiences in 2022, it’s important to highlight that across all streaming content–original, acquired and movies–only four titles were originals. This highlights the immense attraction that library content holds for viewers who spent billions of minutes throughout the year watching popular titles like NCIS, Grey’s Anatomy, Bluey, Seinfeld, Criminal Minds and the Simpsons.

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